After the first sprint (two weeks) of designing a web-based payment method system, I wanted to make sure I was in the right ballpark. I brought in five actual student users of the existing system.
These were static screenshots, not an interactive prototype. As such, it's not a "real" usability test. I just wanted students to take a look at this radically re-aligned and re-designed payment method system, to see what would happen. And just because they say "Oh I would have clicked that" doesn't mean they would have. And that's not what I was testing.
What I was testing was mental models. I wanted students to look at the new design and walk me through it verbally and see if the design treatments and metaphors I used were meshing with what they had in their head.
Did what I design fit their mental model?
If not, why not? If so, why so?
What worked, what didn't?
Since this was a redesign of an existing system, was it too radically different?
Could the user figure out what the buttons did without even clicking on them?
What were some of the elements on the page for? Could they figure them out on their own?
Was it basically usable?
How did it make them feel? (Very important!)
After this round of testing, we made some iterations, then prototyped, and tested again with stellar results. We then built this product pretty much exactly as you see it now, and it has worked very well for our students.
Test early, test often, even if its just static screenshots you can have someone walk you through. This will lead to product success.
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